September 18, 2007

Whitehouse Congratulates Newporter on Prestigious Arts Award

Stone Carver Nicholas Benson Receives National Heritage Fellowship

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator and National Council on the Arts member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) delivered the keynote address today at a ceremony honoring Nicholas Benson of Newport, the first Rhode Islander to receive a prestigious national award for folk and traditional arts. Benson, a third-generation stone letter carver and calligrapher, was recognized this morning along with eleven other recipients of the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)’s National Heritage Fellowship.

“On behalf of the people of Rhode Island, I congratulate Nick on his recognition as a 2007 National Heritage Fellow – an award made possible by the commitment and vision of Rhode Island’s own Senator Claiborne Pell, who helped found the NEA,” said Whitehouse. “Nick’s work has added immeasurably to our state and our nation’s cultural heritage. His dedication to the traditional forms of stone carving will help ensure that they survive for generations to come.”

The National Heritage Fellowship is the highest public honor awarded for folk and traditional art. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program, which includes a one-time award of $20,000 for the recipients.

Benson oversees the John Stephens Shop, founded in 1705 on Newport’s Thames Street. His work, and that of his father, graces the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center, the National Cathedral, the World War II Memorial, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, and the gravestones of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in Washington, D.C.; the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama; the Poet’s Corner in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York; and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Whitehouse was appointed as an ex-officio member to the National Council on the Arts, the advisory body to the NEA, by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in July. The NEA was created in 1965 with the enactment of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, signed into law by then-President Lyndon Johnson. The bill was originally sponsored by Senator Pell, a champion of the NEA throughout his life.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921